Instant analysis: How the Spurs evened the series

Here’s a look at how the Spurs turned around after a struggling first half to claim a gritty 93-87 victory over Memphis Wednesday night. 

Game analysis: After struggling defending Zach Randolph and Marc Gasol in the paint in Game 1, the Spurs did a better collective effort against the Grizzlies’ “Twin Towers,” limiting them to 23 points after they scored 49 points in the playoff opener.  The Spurs took a collaborative approach as almost every San Antonio big player rotated against them, with a key finishing effort by Antonio McDyess on Randolph down the stretch.   

How the game was won: The Spurs turned on the defense down the stretch, allowing Memphis to score only one basket during a span of nearly four minutes late in the fourthh quarter when their 12-4 run put the game away. And after a struggling team performance from the foul line earlier in the game, George Hill sank six foul shots in the final 5:08, including four in the final 12.3 seconds to ice the victory.  

Player of the game:  Manu Ginobili could barely lift his right elbow with a bulky brace attached to it, but still provided another memorable performance playing through an injury. His 17 points Wednesday night really don’t do justice to his influence as he also provided seven rebounds, four assists, four steals and blocked a shot for good measure. His shooting numbers weren’t good but the surge of energy he provided to his team helped give them a lift they desparately needed. He finished with a team-best plus-16 in plus/minus.

Player of the game II: After scoring only two points in the first half,  Hill gave his team a lift by scoring 14 of his 16 points after the break. He was clutch from the foul line and also hit a couple of crucial 3-pointers that helped him turn around his game after a struggling 1-for-5 start from the field in the first half. Hill also provided five rebounds, four assists and two steals as he gave the Spurs a lift off the bench. The Spurs are a better team when Hill is provided a boost from the bench rather than starting. They missed that lift in Game 1.   

Most unsung player: McDyess had a struggling start in the first three quarters as he looked lost at times trying to contain Randolph and Gasol. But the Spurs’ oldest player provided a lift down the stretch as he forced Randolph to miss his final three shots — a 2-foot layup, a 6-foot jumper and a 3-foot layup as the Spurs pulled away to the victory.

Quote of the day: “Manu is Manu. He could be in a body cast and he’s still gonna make plays,” Memphis forward Shane Battier on the return of Ginobili to the Spurs’ lineup 

Quote of the day II: ”Memphis, they love to play physical. They’re like the old Utah. They’re going to foul and grab and they’re great at it,” Spurs guard Tony Parker on the Grizzlies’ physical defense.

Quote of the day III: “They clogged the paint up. They came at us from the weak side every time. They said, ‘Well, if you guys are going to beat us, you’re going to beat us with something else,”‘  Gasol, on San Antonio’s defensive strategy in Game 2.

Stat of the game: Memphis shot 39.8 percent from the field Wednesday after shooting 55.2 percent from the field in Game 1. Since 2004, the Spurs  have limited playoff opponents to less than 40 percent shooting in 15 games. They are 14-1 in those games.

Stat of the game II: Randolph and Gasol combined to hit 7-for-23 from the field (30.4 percent). They hit 19-for-25 from the field (76 percent) in Game 1.

Curious stat of the game: San Antonio had 19 turnovers in the game, compared to 15 for Memphis. But the Spurs turnovers led to 13 Memphis points, compared to 26 points coming from Memphis’ miscues.

Injuries: Ginobili returned to the lineup despite a sprained right elbow. He was not as effective as normal, but still helped lead San Antonio to the victory.

Turning around the first-game struggles: The Spurs have lost six consecutive Game 1 in the playoffs. They are 3-3 in second games after those early losses.

Regular season vs. playoffs: After hitting 47.5 percent from the field and averaging 103.7 points per game during the regular season, the Spurs are hitting 42.0 percent from the field in the playoffs and averaging 95.5 points per game after two games with the Grizzlies. Memphis is shooting 46.5 percent in the playoffs and averaging 94.0 points in the playoffs, compared to 47.1 percent and 99.9 points in the regular season.

What it means: San Antonio grabbed a crucial victory that evened the series. But the young Grizzlies leave San Antonio with homecourt advantage as they head home for what undoubtedly will be the biggest game in franchise history on Saturday night at the FedExForum with a chance to snatch control of the series.

The numbers say: After splitting the first two games of a playoff series, the Spurs are 12-13 in those series (48.0 percent) in their previous history. But since 2003, they have won seven of their last nine series after starting 1-1.

What the Spurs and Kings said after Wednesday’s game

Here, courtesy of the quick transcribers in the Spurs’ media services office, is a sampling of the post-game comments from the Spurs and Kings after San Antonio’s 124-92 victory Wednesday night at the ATT Center.

Spurs coach Gregg Popovich

(On positive feedback to DeJuan (Blair) after diving for a loose ball and starting a fast break)

“Coaches love that sort of thing.  That kind of effort is above and beyond.  You have someone like that trying to get minutes and be on the floor and show you what you can do, that he can play the complete game.  That is impressive to any coach, so I was really happy for him that he did that.  It fires up the team, giving the team confidence in him.  So it is a win win for everybody.”

(On offense in second half, especially in the third quarter)

“I don’t really have any idea.  I didn’t really watch the offense too much.  We have been concentrating on the defense.  That is where we really need to improve the most.  Last night and tonight we played very good defense, and it fueled the offense that you saw.  That is where it all starts for us.  I thought we had great focus tonight after a back to back, where one might think we are the tired team.”

Spurs guard Manu Ginobili

(On how the team feels now with their magic number being one)

“Of course it’s better because we know we have a big chance on Saturday against the Jazz.  We were a little worried.  We knew it wasn’t the end of the world to finish second, but at the same time after the kind of season we had, we wanted it.  We got a great opportunity, it’s not over yet, and we definitely want to get the next one.”

(On what the three-game winning streak has done for the team’s confidence)

“We knew we were not going to lose every single game for the remainder of the season.  We had a few good games that we just couldn’t win, so it wasn’t that we were just playing terrible.  We had a better schedule in the last three games.  We had a pretty important game in Atlanta that we won and that kind of got us going and then we got lucky that the Lakers lost against the Jazz and that gave us an extra game to be able to close it next game.”

(On the offensive surge in the third quarter)

“We played much better.  We pushed the ball a little bit more and defensively I think we were pretty good in the first half too.  But the key was to move the ball, attack quick, we made a few shots, so we had the whole package in the third quarter.”

(On if the defense fueled the offense)

“Sometimes I think it’s both ways.  Sometimes defense fuels offense and sometimes when you make three threes in a row, everybody’s pumped up and the defense is more aggressive, more energetic.  So it goes both ways sometimes.”

Spurs guard George Hill

(On what was the difference in the third quarter)

“Just getting set.  I knew we needed a little bit of fire power coming off the bench, a little aggressiveness, so I just tried to come in and give a spark.  I think it kind of helped and at the same time, it got other people going too.”

(On the perimeter game tonight)

“Just taking open shots.  I think we had a lot of great looks and they fell.  Each game is not going to be the same looks but fortunately that was the game plan Sacramento went to and it opened up a whole bunch of corner threes and things like that.”

(On what Coach Pop said at halftime)

“He said we’re playing pretty good defense with the lack of giving up a couple offensive rebounds, but at the same time he wants to push the tempo since we know that they score a lot.  Our thing was if we can get the most second chance points and get the rebound and push it, it’ll open the game up and that’s what happened.”

Kings coach Paul Westphal

(Thoughts on the game)

“My overall assessment is that the Spurs are very, very good. We hung with them real well in the first half, not turning the ball over too much or shooting the ball very well. I thought our defense was good in the first half, except for our transition defense. When they got out and ran, we didn’t have too much defense for that, and in the second half, our defense wasn’t very good, our offense wasn’t efficient, and they hit every shot. They just blew us out in the third quarter.”

(On what to say to the players)

“Move on to the next game. It didn’t go our way tonight, we got beat by a great team, did some good things, learned from the bad things, get your rest, and we’ve got another game to finish this trip 2-1.”

(On the positives that come from this loss)

“There’s lot’s of positives. We played a very good first half. We showed that we can defend, we got good shots, didn’t always make them, but that’s basketball. In the third quarter, the roof fell in, but that doesn’t mean everything was bad.”

(On how to bounce back)

“We don’t lose our confidence because we just lost to the best team in the league. We did some good things, caused things to go the other way. Whatever team makes 12 out of 19 threes and gets to the line as much as they do, it’s not necessarily going to be a good result.”

Kings guard Tyreke Evans

(On the third quarter)

“We didn’t make shots. They did and they got a lot of points off the fast break and that’s what killed us.”

 (On why the Spurs are so dangerous)

“They make shots and they run their offense. They just play together; they’re a veteran team. They finish those quarters out.”

(On how the Spurs create so many open shots)

“They cut hard and swing the ball side to side. They set picks and make the defense move side to side. It’s hard. One time down the court we played great defense and they still hit a floater. It was good defense but they just move the ball so much.”

(On what they could have done differently defensively in the third quarter)

“I think we were playing pretty hard. They were out there moving the ball side to side and running the pick-and-rolls. They were making us help on defense and then they were finding the open guys and making their shots.”

(On Tony’s role in the offense)

“Tony Parker; it starts with him. Once he gets out in the open and gets a couple layups, that get’s them going. They start running because they know when he’s running he’s going to get a layup and get them the ball for an open look.”

Kings center Samuel Dalembert

(On the third quarter)

“In the first half everything was working. That’s how the game goes though. This game has ups and downs. The Spurs weren’t missing anything. They were hitting everything. They pulled away from us. Starting in the third quarter and going all the way to the fourth quarter they just kept pulling away and hitting their shots. We tried everything we could; we fought, but we just couldn’t get back in the game.”

(On the Spurs’ shooting tonight)

“What we’re taught is to run great 3-point shooters off the line. We were doing that and they were just ripping through and doing a one-dribble pull-up and knocking down their jump shots. Sometimes you just have to go in and give them a hard foul to try and get those guys out of their rhythm. But tonight the whole team was in rhythm; everybody was making shots.”

(On what they can take away from a game like this)

“I really wouldn’t say you can take anything away from this game because we lost. We just have to come back more mentally prepared from the beginning to the end of the game. We just have to keep playing and growing as a team. Hopefully things will work out in the end.”

Kobe will be a game-time decision against Orlando tonight

Los Angeles coach Phil Jackson said the status of All-Star guard Kobe Bryant will be a game-time decision for the Lakers’ game against Orlando Monday.

Bryant sustained a sprained left ankle in the Lakers’ victory Saturday night at Dallas. He played through the injury, but reported that the swelling on the outside of his ankle was the size of a baseball Sunday night.

“I thought I was done, like done,” Bryant told reporters after the Dallas game,. “I was just praying that when I stood up my foot was lined up straight. … That scared the s— out of me. I thought I dislocated it.

“We were all pretty scared … to be honest with you because it looked horrible and it felt worse.”

Bryant is averaging a team-high 25 points along with 4.8 assists and 5.2 rebounds for the Lakers. He has played and started in all 67 of his team’s games this year.

Jackson told ESPN Los Angeles that Bryant’s  rapid recovery from what the 15-year veteran dubbed the “scariest” ankle sprain of his career was the result of.

“He’s probably stretched all the ligaments and tendons out in his ankle so he doesn’t have a whole lot of tearing going on,” Jackson said. “Otherwise, it would be difficult.”

If Bryant is unable to play, Shannon Brown will start against the Magic.